MHG7685 - St. Maelrubha's Monastery - Applecross


No summary available.

Type and Period (4)

  • MONASTIC SETTLEMENT (Early Medieval - 561 AD to 1057 AD)
  • CARVED STONE (Early Medieval - 561 AD? to 1057 AD?)
  • BOUNDARY BANK (Early Medieval - 561 AD? to 1057 AD?)
  • CIST (Early Medieval - 561 AD? to 1057 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

NG74NW 1 7135 4583.
The monastery established by St Maelrubha at Applecross in 673 survived in 1963 (A C Thomas 1971) as an oval enclosure, almost ploughed out; and a low mound known as Claodh Maree was alleged to contain St Maelrubha's grave. The topography suggests that modern church, built 1817 partly on the site of an older church extant until 1792, occupies the site of the actual monastery.
Reeves (W Reeves 1862) mentions a low nearly circular embankment, about 30' diameter internally, south of cross (NG74NW 2) and on opposite side of road. It was said to be venerated and to contain human remains. Embankments near the river in meadow below church, were alleged to be connected with the Abbot's Mill; and a mound a short distance NE of E boundary of churchyard was said to have been used as an altar. He also mentions alleged remains of St Maelrubha's tomb consisting of red granite fragments, some lying about churchyard and others built into manse. The sanctuary of monastery is said to have extended for six miles.
W Reeves 1862; A C Thomas 1971; Information from A C Thomas to OS 26 October 1966; Orig Paroch Scot 1855.

The site was visited by A C Thomas in 1963(4) and the vague vallum earthworks of the presumed monastery were surveyed. "...In the far north-west, St Maelrubha's foundation of 'Apurcrossin', Applecross, in Wester Ross, is now almost entirely ploughed-out for forestry; but in field-work in 1964 I was able to trace the oval enclosure which marks this early (probably seventh-century) foundation". <1>

The churchyard and the (presumed) remains of the C7 monastery within and outwith the churchyard were Scheduled in 1969.

The Old Parish Church and burial ground were listed at category B on 25/03/1971.

Now no trace of oval vallum recorded by Thomas (A C Thomas 1971). MacRae (K MacRae, 42 Denny, Inverness) is an obervant and reliable informant whose great grandfather supplied Reeves with his information and he states there never was anything ancient visible outwith modern graveyard, except a pool, now drained, S of old manse which was known as the "Pool of the Coracles".
The N arc of the circular embankment noted by Reeves (D Reeves 1862) survives in S corner of modern graveyard and is shown on Thomas' plan. It is a curving turf-covered bank 3m wide, 0.5m high and c16m long, which isolates an area where there is only one recent gravestone. The area enclosed must have exceeded 30ft but there is now no trace of remainder outside the graveyard. According to MacRae this area was not venerated as stated by Reeves (W Reeves 1862), indeed opposite as a suicide was once buried in the enclosure.
According to MacRae (K MacRae) the whole area between E gable of chapel (NG74NW3) and graveyard wall is known as Claodh Maree and there have never been burials in this traditionally venerated area. He is uncertain of origin of two small pillars which occur at distances of 11.5 and 13.5m from gable. It was in this area (some 4 to 5 yds from gable) where he found a long cist in 1934 which he believes was Maelrubha's grave. At that time there were visible traces of three walls of a building some 10 ft wide, whose W end he believes was overlaid by chapel. He thought it represented an oratory. He estimated where altar would be at E end and dug at its right side. At a depth of about 12 inches he found a rough flagged floor and some 18 inches below this was a slab which when lifted proved to be cap of a long cist. The slab lined cist was bottomed with loose gravel amongst which were pieces of charcoal and calcined human bones and also an artifact of 'yellow metal' probably bronze which Callander identified as a ring brooch with a bent pin though MacRae still maintains it was more like a link of an ornamental chain. It was made of 'thin yellow wire' and seemed precisely bent. Each end had an ornament of three grooves and was blunt, not pointed as a pin would be. The cist was carefully re-covered.
MacRae (K Macrae) says that in area immediately SW of Cloadh Maree where most northerly of modern graves occur, several similar, but not so well constructed, stone cists have been found over the years. One which he uncovered about 2ft down, was constructed above another at a lower level. It was in this same locality that from time to time he found five sculptured cross fragments which were preserved in modern church, although only two of them are there now. A third preserved there, the largest of three, was discovered built into wall of chapel. All fragments seemed to be from different crosses.
There is no trace of the pre-1817 church, but MacRae (K MacRae) knows tradition of its site under or beside modern church. He knows nothing of mound NE of E boundary of graveyard, nor of embankments near river. None of alleged fragments of the Saints' tomb were noted at old manse which is now a farm-house.
Visited by OS (AA) 31 May 1974; D Reeves 1862; AC Thomas 1971.

Fragments of carved stones in church: see Assoc. Docs for photos. JW 11/10/00

Following a site visit and assessment by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016-17 as part of the Dual Designations project, it was considered that the early Christian monastery, the cross-slab and the small roofless chapel were of national importance and would remain scheduled and would be excluded from the listed building designation. In addition, all the other memorials and the Old Parish Church were considered to be of special architectural or historic interest and would remain listed at category B. They would also be excluded from the scheduled monument. <2>

The listing and Scheduling were amended on 29/05/2017. <3> <4>

GIS spatial data amended in 2018 according to rectification of plan by AC Thomas.

An article on the Early Medieval carved stone fragments recovered from Applecross was published in Volume 148 of PSAS in 2018. <5>

See also:
NG74NW0001 (Parent) St. Maelrubha's monastery
NG74NW0002 Cross-slab
NG74NW0003 Churchyard chapel
NG74NW0005 Old Parish Church
NG74NW0006 Burial Ground
NG74NW0014 Font

Sources/Archives (8)



Grid reference Centred NG 7140 4583 (149m by 202m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG74NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

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Related Monuments/Buildings (9)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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